AMIDST complaints of failing healthcare system in West Africa, trade unions in the sub-region, with support from Solidarity Centre, have called on the governments to invest more in quality and affordable healthcare delivery systems.
The health sector has been historically underfunded in Nigeria and most West African countries, receiving less than seven percent of the total annual budget. This has led to poor medical facilities and poor access to quality and affordable healthcare to millions.
However, trade unions in the sub-region said the government must be ready to place adequate investment in healthcare.
The campaign, titled, “Healthcare is a human right,” is led by the Organisation of Trade Unions of West Africa (OTUWA) and the West African Health Sector Union Network (WASUN).
Addressing journalists in Abuja on the campaign, Dr Ayegba Ojonugwa, Coordinator of the Nigeria Working Group of the sub-regional campaign, noted that the current realities facing the healthcare sector include infrastructural decay, inadequate human resource for health, brain-drain, inadequate equipment for holistic treatment leading to continuous medical tourism and non-implementation of 15 percent minimum annual budgetary allocation to health.
The Nigerian working group comprises the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, and the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA).
Ojonugwa recalled that in trying to shape the future of health in Africa, African leaders gathered to offer a landmark declaration called the Abuja Declaration in 2001.
One of the recommendations of the Abuja Declaration is that governments of African countries should allocate a minimum of 15 percent of their annual budgetary allocation to health.
“This advocacy hinges strongly on whether the recommendations of the Abuja Declaration of 2001 have been adhered to by Nigeria and other African countries,” he said.
He said further that, “We are here today to further advocate that healthcare is a human right. And also to call on the Nigerian government and government of other West African countries on the urgent need to implement key components of the Abuja Declaration of 2001 and other related matters.”
Nigerian Tribune reports that a recent research conducted by OTUWA with support from Solidarity Centre to examine the state of West African healthcare systems and impact of COVID-19 health crisis on healthcare workers in six West African countries, exposed the fragility in West African healthcare systems in general and Nigeria in particular.
The research presented a gloomy picture of poorly-funded healthcare systems grappling with lack of necessities like Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), shortage of healthcare personnel and increased multi-tasking of existing health workers, which correlated to inadequate health care services for citizens in the countries surveyed.
Ojonugwa said, “Our demand is that the Nigerian government and other West African governments should immediately comply with the Abuja Declaration of 2001. That is, provide a minimum of 15 percent of budgetary allocation to health. This is very fundamental and critical because no other sector or section of the economy will function efficiently and effectively without the issue of health.
“Government should review upward the salaries of health workers and other benefits and also create a decent working environment in order to retain the health workforce while reducing brain-drain.
“Nigerian government and other West African countries should critically examine the drivers of brain-drain. Indecent working environment is a driver of brain-drain, poor remuneration of wage, security, etc are part of it as well. They should create a better working environment and provide good benefits for the working people.
“We are saying no to privatisation of healthcare in any form. This is to guarantee accessibility, availability and affordability of healthcare by the vulnerable persons in our country. We don’t need privatisation to have better healthcare. Nigeria had a better healthcare system in the early 70’s and 80’s and other countries were coming to Nigeria for healthcare treatment.”
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